Cities Deploy Fakery Techniques To Cover Up Urban Blight

Camden, New Jersey, one of the poorest and most crime-ridden U.S. cities, has awaited rebirth for a generation. For now, it has Christopher Toepfer and his paintbrush.

Ten feet up a ladder, Toepfer, a 51-year-old artist, is turning a rotting factory’s plywood-covered windows from a mess of gang graffiti into a railroad mural. The spruce-up, though it won’t cure the neighborhood’s ills of poverty and violence, will make a bright spot of the biggest blight on Federal Street.

Thirty years after New York City Mayor Ed Koch drew scorn for gussying up uninhabitable Bronx tenements with decals of curtained windows, urban fakery is spreading in U.S. cities where the recession’s wave of foreclosures added to decades-long decay. The city of Wilmington, Delaware, used the decal approach on a string of row houses earlier this year, and Bridgeport, Connecticut, started working with local artists in October to adopt Toepfer’s approach.

If the technique that Toepfer calls aesthetic board-up is a stopgap, it’s a cheap one, costing just $500 to $1,000 per property, a fraction of demolition costs. It’s also immediate, with a typical makeover done in less than a day.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/business/2014/07/05/Vacant-House-Fakery-Reborn-as-Cleveland-to-Camden-Fight-Blight/stories/201407040018#ixzz36bqH18zQ

Greensburg Council Hears Pitch For Westmoreland County Land Bank

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Westmoreland ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Westmoreland County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Westmoreland County Land Bank brings a chance to remove dilapidated buildings and find another productive use for them, a county official told Greensburg City Council on Tuesday.

“It’s a proactive way to tackle slum and blight in the county,” said April Kobus, executive director of the county redevelopment authority.

Council expects to consider an agreement for the initiative, approved by the county commissioners in December, on Monday.

Greensburg, the county seat, would be an ideal entity to be among the first of 10 municipalities to join the program as part of a multi-phase endeavor, Kobus said.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/westmoreland/5906334-74/council-county-bank#ixzz2yRzmj4Ms
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Brian O’Neill: Blight-Ridding Bill In Pittsburgh Shows Plenty Of Potential

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Drive down Hamilton Avenue or its side streets in Homewood and you’ll see a whole lot of not there anymore.

City Council is trying to hash out a plan to “land bank” the acres of vacant and boarded-up properties the city controls so they can be cleared for sale. That would take in about half of Homewood and almost half the Hill District.

When I asked Councilman Ricky Burgess, who represents Homewood, if he could give me a quick tour of the problem sites, he said, “You don’t need me. I’m dead serious. Drive down Hamilton Avenue and drive around at your leisure. It’s so bad … it’s breathtaking.”

He was right. It came as advertised.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/brian-oneill/2014/01/26/Brian-O-Neill-Blight-ridding-bill-in-Pittsburgh-shows-plenty-of-potential/stories/201401260059#ixzz2reCwstxI

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Pittsburgh Councilwoman Deb Gross Proposes Land Bank

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Deb Gross is proposing the creation of a land bank for the city of Pittsburgh, a mechanism that could streamline the process of redeveloping tax-delinquent land.

Ms. Gross today introduced a bill today creating the legal framework for the land bank, which would be an entity separate from the city. The legislation is a work in progress because Ms. Gross wants to get community input on many of the program’s details.

In 2012, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed the State Land Bank Act, which allowed for the creation of land banks. Since the passage of the law, Westmoreland County, Dauphin County and Philadelphia have created land banks.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2014/01/14/Pittsburgh-councilwoman-Deb-Gross-proposes-land-bank/stories/2014011401450000000#ixzz2qQ6pSLFH

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Philadelphia Could Make History With Land Bank Plan

English: Map of Philadelphia County highlighti...

English: Map of Philadelphia County highlighting planning districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe City Councilman Bobby Henon said it best on Thursday: “Right now, we have opportunity to make historic changes.”

Henon, chairman of Council’s Public Property Committee, was talking about the bill to create a land bank.

It’s a system Atlanta, Cleveland, St. Louis, and other cities have adopted and that supporters say could help cure the blight haunting many Philadelphia neighborhoods.

But with history at stake, the proposal seems stuck

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/20131125_Philadelphia_could_make_history_with_land_bank_plan.html#u0ZlRfmlg53GFGwF.99

Philadelphia Council Committee Says Yes To A Land Bank

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After years of talking the talk about getting a land bank in Philadelphia, where blight scars entire neighborhoods, City Council started Monday to walk the walk.

On a 6-1 vote, Council’s Committee on Public Property and Public Works approved a resolution to establish a land bank. The bill still needs a vote of the full Council.

If it approves, Philadelphia would become the largest city with a land bank. Land banks streamline the process for rescuing blighted property, whether by homeowners who want to turn a vacant lot next door into a garden or developers who hope to buy clusters of houses to make way for a major project.

One expert said Philadelphia was better equipped than some cities with land banks, such as Flint, Mich.; Cleveland; and St. Louis.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/20131029_Phila__Council_committee_says_yes_to_a_land_bank.html#86b2DVYsKXDDfbXV.99

Residents Of Homewood Search For Alternative To Demolishing Houses

Locator map with the Homewood North neighborho...

Locator map with the Homewood North neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania highlighted. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Homewood‘s sense of place is eroding so fast that 184 homes have been razed since 2011 and another 232 are condemned. Residents are torn. They value the building stock that attests to better days, but blight is outpacing opportunities to save what’s viable.

Just in time for the neighborhood’s biggest investment in decades, Operation Better Block staff began a door-to-door campaign to motivate hundreds of residents to face this crisis by helping to plan housing strategies.

“Demolition was the only recourse people thought we had,” said Jerome Jackson, executive director of Operation Better Block. Even if it is, he added, people need information to be comfortable with that.

A neighborhood advocacy nonprofit since 1971, Operation Better Block initiated a resident-driven plan for the use of vacant land and buildings two years ago in a test area of 46 parcels near Pittsburgh Faison K-5. The school was a crucial reason to strengthen that area, which is also near the East Busway and the ripest area for investment.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/residents-of-homewood-search-for-alternative-to-demolishing-houses-706527/#ixzz2h3n9teMY

Will Dauphin County Create The State’s First Land Bank To Fight Blight?

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Dauphin County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Dauphin County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Dauphin County Commissioners will begin discussing legislation Wednesday to become the first municipality in the state to create a land bank authority to clean up vacant and blighted properties.

A land bank allows a government agency — in this case as part of the Dauphin County Redevelopment Authority – to acquire properties that are abandoned, run down and whose owners are delinquent on property tax payments.  The land bank could then rehabilitate the property and resell it or demolish the building for some kind of green space.

Land banks have been used to revitalize communities in Michigan, the Cleveland area and around Atlanta, among other places.  In year, Gov. Tom Corbett signed the Land Bank Act, hoping that municipalities here would have similar success.  City councils in Reading and Philadelphia have discussed creating land banks, as have several counties, but so far none have.

The county commissioners will discuss the measure at their weekly 10 a.m. meeting, and are expected to hold a vote next week.

Read more:  http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2013/04/will_dauphin_county_create_the.html#incart_river_default

Rewrite Of Pennsylvania Property Tax Sale Laws Is Tool In Blight Fight

Map of Pennsylvania, showing major cities and ...

Map of Pennsylvania, showing major cities and roads (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  This can’t happen soon enough!

HARRISBURG – Affordable housing advocates are urging a reform of Pennsylvania’s property tax sale laws to help fight blight in both large cities and small towns.

They want to overhaul a system that allows speculators to obtain a lien on property at tax sales by paying delinquent taxes and yet not go the next step and obtain clear title.

Other legislation being sought would give long-standing residents the opportunity to take ownership of homes in cases where the recorded owner has abandoned them and put more restrictions on who can bid at property tax sales.

Rewriting archaic tax sale laws that date to the 1920s and 1940s is seen as a way to help fiscally distressed cities rebuild their tax bases and help get newly authorized land banks off the ground.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/rewrite-of-property-tax-sale-laws-is-tool-in-blight-fight-1.1414337

Philadelphia Housing Concerns, Landlord Violations And Creation Of A Land Bank

Temple University logo (no text, "T"...

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This should sound familiar to Pottstown residents.  Our big city neighbor to the SE is grappling with many of the same issues that Pottstown is facing: landlords, vacant and blighted properties and gentrification of neighborhoods 

There was a Revitalizing Urban Neighborhoods Conference at Temple University yesterday attended by about 300 people and some big investors. 

Subjects like illegal rentals, blighted lots and private citizens having the ability to buy property from the Redevelopment Authority versus that land being sold to developers were discussed.  Another hot topic was creation of a Land Bank so developers can more easily purchase vacant lots. 

The conversation was spirited by all accounts as city residents expressed their frustrations on these subjects.